Playing Chicken

When we decided to get chickens I  (Mike) envisioned multiple posts chronicling in great detail the process of ordering the chickens, building their coop, picking them up, a Facebook profile for each chicken, maybe a live webcam in the coop.

Well in reality, I built the coop in the middle of winter over a few weeks, often in snowstorms, in the driveway, while packing to move! I moved the coop from our place in town to the homestead 3/4 finished and scrambled to finish it before the chickens arrived (10pm the night before ). And finally I had to work the day the chickens were to be picked up so Julie had to pick them up alone, with a 4 year old and didn’t have a chance to take pictures. So you get the story of chickens out of order. I’ll post about the building of the coop soon.

Since we have no experience with chickens we decided to order 6 ready to lay hens (teenage chickens that would be ready to start laying eggs once they were exposed to around 14 hours of day light). We ordered brown egg laying Red Sex Link from Frey’s Hatchery. This breed of chicken should give an egg a day 80% of the time.IMG_0310 2

For the coop, we knew that our barn wouldn’t be ready until well after we moved and we liked the idea of free-range chickens so we decided on a chicken tractor. A chicken tractor is basically a portable chicken coop that allows the chickens to free range but keeps them contained and safe from predators. Continue reading

Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap – A Picture Tutorial

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Who doesn’t love to save money?  I know we do!

One of the easiest money saving DIYs we do in our household is to make our own laundry soap! We’ve been making our own laundry soap for almost 2 years and it’s very easy.  The best part – it ends up costing less than a penny per load and works better than store bought laundry soap!

Here’s what you need:

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  • 1 cup of Washing Soda

  • 1 cup Borax

  • 1 bar of laundry soap such as Fels-Naptha (other laundry/castile soap can be substituted such as Dr. Bronner’s, Linda’s, Sunlight, etc.)

  • A bucket (we use an old 4.54kg cat food pail).

We buy our Washing Soda and Borax at our local No Frills and we bulk purchase the Fels-Naptha when we go to the United States since we haven’t been able to find it in Canada and I love its smell and cleaning power so much!  Laundry soap bars can be purchased in the laundry isle of your grocery store.

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First things first, we grate the Fels Naptha bar.  Here, you can see that I started using our new to us food processor (thanks Pat & Justine) but the bar of soap was too hard and it started smoking a little or as Mike would say, I “let the smoke out”.  I continued grating the bar by hand.

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It’s time to transplant our Onions!

So it’s already been about 4 weeks since we first planted the onion seeds and they have done great so far. It’s time to transplant them into individual containers. We are using 72 cell plastic trays for the next stage of growing and we added a solution of 1/4 teaspoon of Wegener’s organic fertilizer to 2 cups of water in the bottom of the tray.

As you can probably tell, the soil is dry since we didn’t water them that morning as we usually do. We did this deliberately as it is easier to separate the sprouts.

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Mason Bee Homes

We want to have a honey bee hive on our homestead but it seems that it may not be possible this year because there is a shortage of bees in Ontario and Quebec. I was telling a co-worker about this and she suggested Mason Bees.  I said “What are Mason Bees?” She dug into her bag and pulled out a magazine that had a cool article explaining what mason bees are. Well as usual,  Julie and I went off on a tangent and did a whole bunch of research and we decided that our lives wouldn’t be complete until we had Mason Bee homes.

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There is ton’s of information available online but here’s a condensed summary. Continue reading

Homemade Natural Dishwasher Detergent

We have been looking for quite some time for a good homemade natural dishwasher detergent. I have made recipes that came very close, but either they wouldn’t clean our dishes very well or leave a cloudy residue on our dishes no matter what rinse agent we tried.

Well, we finally found the perfect recipe!

Today, I’ll show you how to make your very own homemade natural dishwasher liquid, for pennies a load! (see the cost breakdown below)

Here is what you will need:

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Ingredients:

  • 3 Cups of Water (Tap worker works fine!)
  • 1 1/4 Cups of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (Not Baking Soda!)
  • 3 Tbs Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap (We use Peppermint and it smells amazing!) Do not substitute with other castille soaps- they are not the same
  • Regular Quart Mason Jar with a Lid

This will yield about 825 ml, approximately 56 loads. Continue reading

Onion Update: We have sprouts!

Yesterday we woke up to see that several of our onion seeds have sprouted! It seems like the homemade warming mat helped a lot since the onions were “supposed” to germinate in 7-14 days according to the package, but ours germinated in only 5 days!  It was very cool to check back during the day and see more and more green poking up.  Oh, and in case you’re wondering, our mould issue on top of the soil resolved itself with the help of the holes we poked on the top of our domes!

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Our Garden Journal

We thought it would be a good idea to keep records of what we are planting and write down the outcome so we can purchase or avoid a certain seed types in the future.

We searched to see what was out there as far as a record books and we found the perfect one in the 2014 Alamanack & Garden Journal.

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Planting Onions from Seeds

It’s mid-way through February and it’s time to start planning our onions!  Our garden planning software suggests we plant indoors for 4-6 weeks before transferring them to our garden in mid-April.

The plan is to start them in bigger containers and then after 4 weeks, transferring them to bigger containers so their roots can expand and continue to grow.

Here are the materials we are using:  Miracle Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix (the only organic potting soil in town in mid-February!), two packages of McKenzie Organic Sturon Onion Seeds, two take-out type containers with lids, a spray bottle full of water and a  big bowl to mix the soil and water together.

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Our First Post – About Us

Thanks for visiting our blog and please join us as we try to transition from an average family to modern day homesteaders. Our family consists of dad Mike, mom Julie and our three children, The Giraffe, The Lone Wolf and The Bear.  For the last couple of years we have been dreaming of a more active lifestyle, a sustainable organic food supply and a small homestead of our own. Things started small, we had a small vegetable garden, did some canning, made our own soaps and household products.

Now we’ve taken the plunge and bought 6 acres to start our new life on. There’s only one catch, we have no idea what we’re doing!  We’ve read pages and pages and watched hours of YouTube videos about gardening, chickens, and sustainable living.  With a family of five, three kids, two jobs, and one limited budget it’s sure to be an adventure.